European regulators are apparently planning to take some of the biggest names in technology, including Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo, to task when it comes to privacy protection. Google and Microsoft currently keep log files and search data for 18 months, while Yahoo keeps similar data for 13 months. The EU appears ready to push those companies for a 6 month maximum before data must be purged. Google reacted that the data in question helps to improve the online experience for their customers and that keeping log data can actually help to prevent fraud and keep users safe.
Privacy is still a major concern for Americans who have seen at least some of their privacy stripped in the years since 9/11, even after Congress scrapped the Pentagon’s Carnivore data mining program. The NSA has created a program eerily similar to the one that Congress outlawed and the agency that was once restricted to spying on foreigners now sifts through mounds of data that Americans generate online. IBM thinks they have a solution in their PrimeLife project and, funded by a grant from the EU, hopes to create a tool kit that will help people manage their private data.
NSA’s Domestic Spying Grows As Agency Sweeps Up Data (Wall Street Journal)
IBM project seeks privacy controls for users (Infoworld)
I completely understand why the government and corporations want to run roughshod over our privacy. Companies hope to increase ad revenue from searches and if they can provide ads that are targeted based on the data they collect about us, they can get more money for those ads. The government wants to try to avoid another 9/11 and, even though Congress scrapped the Pentagon version, the Bush administration has been adament that their data mining program will help catch terrorists.
I tend to be less concerned with corporate and government arguments when it comes to privacy as I believe, though the word “privacy” never actually appears in the Constitution, that this country was founded on the ideal that a citizen’s personal information should remain personal unless they actively give that information to someone. Consider the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This seems to me to point towards a reasonable expectation of privacy and, the Internet being the great-great grandchild of “papers and effects,” this prohibition on warrentless searches should definitely apply to the NSA program. It seems that Europe is going further to try and protect their citizens’ privacy from corporations, but in America the politicians seem oblivious. Do you think enough is being done to protect your privacy?